Fall 2023

Proseminar in History: Writing the Past

Listed in: History, as HIST-301


Ellen R. Boucher (Section 01)


This course offers an opportunity for history majors and students intrigued by the past to reflect upon the practice of history. How do we claim to know anything about the past at all? How do historians construct the stories they tell about the past from the fragmentary remnants of former times? What is the connection between the past as it was lived and the narratives that historians write? How do we judge the truth and value of these histories and memories? The course explores questions such as these through readings and case studies drawn from a variety of places and times. A central aim of the course is to give students a sense of how the discipline of History has developed over time, as new theories and agendas have emerged, and as earlier versions of the past have been reevaluated in light of changing circumstances and commitments. Requirements include active participation in class and multiple graded and ungraded written assignments. Two meetings per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Professor Boucher. Spring semester: Professor Couvares.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to History majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Exploration of methodological and theoretical debates about the writing of historical scholarship. Extensive reading, several argumentative papers, intensive in-class discussions.

HIST 301 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM CONV 209
Th 8:30 AM - 9:50 AM CONV 209

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997 Obeyesekere, Gananath TBD
How "Natives" Think: About Captain Cook, for Example Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995 Sahlins, Marshall Amherst Books TBD
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, with a new afterword Harper Perennial 2017 Browning, Christopher Amherst Books TBD
Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History Pantheon 1986 Spiegelman, Art Amherst Books TBD
Thinking about History University of Chicago 2017 Maza, Sarah Amherst Books TBD
Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History Beacon Press 1995 Trouillot, Michel-Rolph Amherst Books TBD
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 2018 Blight, David Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025